Aage Se Right

The Killing Fields of West Bengal: Once famed for paddy and mustard, rural Bengal is now overrun by murder

Bengal has always been known for terrible political violence. However, recently this has taken a horrific new form. The growing challenge to the TMC posed by the BJP is clearly unnerving many.

 |  Aage Se Right  |  6-minute read |   13-05-2019
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These dead bodies appear with an eerie irregularity on my social media timelines. The faces on those bodies are twisted after suffering immeasurable pain, their mouths open wide because their lungs were craving some air, their bodies blue with marks of torture. The death stare from the bewildered, shocked but still eyes are silently screaming out the tales of those agonising last moments.

Everyday, these bodies get onto my timeline and make me miserable. The brutality inflicted on them makes me wonder, “What if it happened to me?”, “What if it happened to my loved one?”, “What if this torture was inflicted on somebody I knew closely?”

I ask myself: “Would I stay silent? Would I take my eyes away and try to pretend that I have not seen it at all?” 

“Would I play deceiving games with my mind into making it believe that it was not a human being but an alien?”

Whatever happens to me, social media is unfair and exceptionally cruel. I feel that these platforms realise that it disturbs me and hence, conspire with the universe to throw more such traumatic experiences at me. And while scrolling my timeline, whenever I come across those ghastly pictures, I have to pause for a few seconds and click on the link to inflict more pain upon myself. 

Most of these pictures originate from Bengal. 

Sometimes, they are tweeted by BJP president Amit Shah, sometimes retweeted by another party karyakarta.  

amitshah-690_051219042328.jpgBJP president Amit Shah has been raising the issue of political violence in West Bengal repeatedly. (Source: PTI)

The bodies lie there, surrounded by shocked family members, villagers and neighbours who look befuddled and yes, terror-struck. In most cases, they are not even crying. They are just staring. Staring blankly into empty space, with 'surrender' written all over their gaze. 

Bengal is no stranger to violence — in fact, violence has been such an intrinsic part of Bengal that a subaltern version of the history of Bengal may be written through the kinds of violence the people of Bengal have seen so far. Violence in Bengal has always been extreme and has affected common people the most.  

Bengal has always been a hotbed of political violence, right from assuming the identity of the state. Political violence has invariably relapsed in Bengal in a different form every two decades, resulting in literally thousands of dead bodies. These are all documented history.

But over the last decade, political violence has taken a different form, a new shape in West Bengal — this time, it is targeted killings of the ground-level workers identifying with the principles of the opposition parties. The CPM in Bengal is no more considered a worthy opposition — the brunt of all the ire is being borne by BJP workers in Bengal. 

During the polling season in West Bengal — as we have seen in the last Panchayat elections too — the opposition candidates (primarily the BJP) are being mercilessly attacked across the state. Look at this India Today report which highlighted that the incidents of violence from Bengal are relentless, the BJP blaming the Trinamool Congress and vice versa. 

As per an estimate of home minister Rajnath Singh, the number of targeted killings of BJP workers hovers around 100 till date. That number was of February 2019. By June 2019 (the time we have a new government at the Centre), expect the numbers to go up.

Surprisingly, most of the killings are taking place far away from Kolkata, where the power centre is. Most of the violent attacks have been reported from Purulia, Birbhum and Bankura, where most national news media doesn't have a proper set-up to cover the news and bring it to national viewers. 

The worst part of the killings is that there is a definite pattern. The pattern is like this — a family of a BJP worker is targeted and threatened. If the family members refuse to back down, then a young adult is waylaid in a desolate area. He is then killed in the most brutal way possible.

After they are killed, at times, the bodies are hanged from a tree or a pole. 

The crime is gruesome, blood-curdling and no less violent than the crimes of a terrorist organisation. Such brutal murder only finds resonance with the way Islamic State kills those who they deem guilty of defying its moral police.

poll-690_051219042655.jpgThe actual murders, and the thick pall of terror thereafter, are meant to cow down village after village. (Source: PTI)

But there is a fundamental difference in what happens after the killings. In an Islamic State-ruled area, the terrorists will proudly claim the murder and use it as an example to terrorise others into submission. But in Bengal, a strange confusion follows. 

There are charges and counter-charges. A huge drama ensues and local police say that they are “investigating the murder”. After a few days, as terrified locals are silenced, no further word generally emerges about the progress of the investigation.

So, what is the official standpoint of the Bengal government about these political murders that seem to have spun out of control?

When India Today Group's TV channel, Aaj Tak, asked Mamata Banerjee about it, she said that there is no violence in Bengal.

"Election Commission is conducting elections, not me. BJP has not done its homework. I am not doing any violence. There is no violence. There are so many blocks and booths, if BJP is going somewhere and doing it, then it’s them and no one else," Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly told Aaj Tak.

As the denials from the government crowd the media space, many more attacks on a smaller scale seem to be a regular occurrence.

Once in a while, one notices some outrage about media reporters being attacked during election coverage or a young woman being arrested and sent to custody for the 'crime' of photoshopping Mamata Banerjee's picture on Priyanka Chopra's face and making a meme out of it.

Barring a few cases, there's no palpable outrage though. Most of us sitting pretty outside Bengal are behaving as if everything is normal. We might behave as if nothing has happened — but the truth is, a lot of lives have changed forever.

The killing fields of Bengal are crying for justice.

Village after village in rural Bengal is terrified after watching such crude acts of violence. Many are silent today but many more will speak up at the first opportune moment.

Bengal doesn't take to violence kindly. History stands witness that Bengalis have always risen up against organised violence and annihilated such black forces. It always brings about a permanent change because Bengal always manages to shake off a reign of terror. 

This time too, the tale will be no different.

Also read: When Mamata Banerjee Met Her Meme: Woman arrested for posting Didi's meme. Where's the free speech lobby now?

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